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Friday, February 29, 2008

Verse and Reverse

Wrong turns, wanderings, and reversals are a fact of life when you write like I do, beginning to end, no outline. I love the freedom this kind of writing gives me, and I've talked about how I feel it enhances my own creativity, but there is a price.

I've been creeping through chapter 4 [ok, I've already lopped off a two-page "prelude" that I was never sure of and made my five-page first chapter into the prelude, so this is really the chapter 5 I was worrying with last week.] I've got my three agentes confide into the palace where the nefarious assault took place...and I got Portier into the hoosegow for one night. I met Maura - did I mention I had plans for her? Not just because she hates lies and she is a cool lady and I enjoyed inventing her, but because I woke up two days ago realizing that she and an unnamed character in my proposal were one and the same. Not only do I have plans for her, but I even know what those plans are! [I LOVE it when that happens.] But then I got stuck.

What do you do when you have writers' block? This is one of the most common questions any writer is asked. And the answer is...

A working writer can't afford to be "blocked." You have to keep plugging, keep looking for something to move you forward.

I picked at the stack of books beside my writing chair and read one called "How Did They Do That" or something like, and it was a great overview of significant developments in various topic areas: Law, Medicine, Food, Science, Architecture, etc. Sort of like the science or food timelines you can find on the internet, only less comprehensive, but including cool pictures and diagrams. I found several VERY useful tidbits.

I read an internet piece about bloodletting [actually a Strange Horizons article called Misconceptions About Medieval Medicine]. Very interesting.

I dragged some descriptive phrases about the palace out of my head [this was truly like pulling a toothpick out of a tarpit]. Which led me into inventing a piece of history - this kingdom had long ago been ruled by the Fassid, a very sophisticated, dark-skinned race - think the Moors in Spain. Sabria's art and architecture reflects the confluence of several great civilizations. Fassid influence is especially pervasive in southern Sabria, and this tells me some things about family customs, too. The Fassid withdrew...disappeared...I have yet to figure out whether this is relevant to current Sabrian history, but it gives me some grounding when I'm writing description: is this a Fassid edifice? was it built to imitate Fassid art? was it built to "put down" Fassid art?

I invented a bit more magic - but it wasn't sufficiently "new" to make me feel accomplished.

At last yesterday, I squeezed out enough words so that Maura got Portier out of his overnight confinement and took him to where he was planning to go...and I realized that it was totally the wrong thing. His "plan" - the investigation I had sketched out in my book proposal, Would Not Work! That's why I was having such a difficult time moving forward. The place I was going to put him would not give him sufficient "cover" for making the inquiries he needed to make.

Once I saw this, I also saw where he needed to be. This is one I have to rework before I can move forward. So I backtrack. Remove a few incidental paragraphs that I can easily use later. Reword a few things. And the incident I wrote yesterday will still work, but Portier will now end up in a place he did NOT plan to be, rather than ending up in the place he planned to be all along. Which circumstance promises the most interest? And the payoff line I wrote in triumph last night still works!

"They found another mule*."

* mule, in this case, is not a sterile donkey offspring, but a person who has been repeatedly bled, his or her blood used for... No, No. That would be telling...

4 comments:

padlocke09 said...

I force through it, by describing the next scene I had planned in the most horrificly intricate manner. It takes forever, but unless the block particularly ill mannered, I'm right back into the grove in no time and chugging down my next five chapters.

Barring that? Two day vacation from writing or planning the writing paired with your favorite music and nonwriting activity.

Of course... I must say, as soon as I have found and bought Breath and Bone (just last week I accidentally stumbled on Flesh and Spirit and fell in love with the story,)I shall eagerly be awaiting this series! If you ever do have time to converse with a fan, I have so many questions for you. If that hasn't scared you away, my email should be in my name when I post this.

~Locke
A fan of everyone's favorite Recondeur, and a new devoted reader.

carolwriter said...

Ah, everyone's favorite recondeur... I must keep reminding myself that HE was obstinate and obstreperous when I started telling his story. I'm so happy to hear you enjoy him padlocke09. And DO write - or post comments - or whatever to ask your questions. As many correspondents will tell you, I love answering.

Yes, forcing oneself into the next scene can work. That's essentially what I did with the Portier/Maura scene, wriggling and protesting all the way. VERY often it happens, as it did this time, that the underlying problem was something Wrong. Once repaired, the block is cleared. A writer must find a way to pick apart the snag until the problem is exposed.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

Maybe it's something in the air in Colorado, or the full moon last week (was there a full moon last week?) I spent two days agonizing over three pages of text. I had to scratch and claw the words from my brain. I don't know this new protag very well, and he seems to be a private sort of person...

My method for block is to bully my way past it. Sometimes I write posts for the blog, too, just to get words flowing. Glad to hear you're coming out of yours...

Ashling said...

I can only imagine how frustrating writer's blocks are. I'm not a professional writer, but I have a few aspiring friends, and it seems like the best way to move past it is to surround yourself with inspiration and hope for the best. Either that or completely shut down for a few days. But from what I've seen of writers, these blocks don't last for long because they all have such wonderful ideas hiding behind the block, waiting to gush out.

I'm intrigued by the "mule" =D